Tufts Medical Center nurses locked out after 1-day strike ends

BOSTON (WHDH) – A 24-hour strike by nurses at Tufts Medical Center in Boston came to an end on Thursday morning and immediately turned into a lockout.

About 1,200 nurses ended their strike at 7 a.m., but were not allowed back into the hospital. Tufts brought in 325 replacement nurses to keep the day-to-day needs of the hospital going and said the nurses can return to work Monday when the contract with the replacements ends. A hospital spokesperson said the nurses were warned that if they were on strike, they would not be allowed to return until Monday.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association and the hospital are at an impasse over staffing levels, pay and retirement benefits. The strike nurses said if they are not allowed back in, they will continue to picket through Monday morning.

From early in the morning on Wednesday to late at night, nurses walked around the hospital grounds, striking in solidarity.

“As soon as I graduated college, I came here,” said nurse Kathleen Glass. “This has been it and I want to retire here.”

Glass has worked as a nurse at Tufts for 28 years and said walking the picket line was a difficult decision.

“It’s just hard. I work in the NICU, so we have to leave our babies,” said Glass. “Some of them have been in there 100-plus days and we’ve taken care of them from day one, when they were born.”

After 15 months of negotiating, the nurses union and the hospital failed to reach an agreement on staffing levels, pay and pensions. So, for the first time in 30 years, Boston nurses went on strike.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said there has got to be a better way.

“Lock themselves in a room for the next 24 to 48 hours, don’t come out of it and come up with an agreement,” said Mayor Walsh.

Hospital officials said the hospital is moving forward with no change in daily operations, even with its regulars out of work.

“Everybody is on point. Everyone is here and everyone is focused completely on what we do everyday, which is to take care of out patients in the most compassionate way,” said Tufts Medical Center President, Doctor Michael Wagner.

Hospital officials said the replacements spent two days training off-site to learn the hospital’s procedures and equipment and did not need the six weeks training new nurses do because they already have experience in the field.

In the meantime, Glass said this is about safety for patients and nurses.

“We’re not doing this to be greedy because we want more money, because it’s not about the money at all,” said Glass. “We stay here because we’re all family. We’re all family here and we worked together for so long. It’s really hard.”

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